Exxon Feels the Heat and Responds to the Divestment Movement  

The global fossil fuel divestment movement has been gaining a lot of steam over the past year, enough to elicit a response from one of the largest oil companies in the world – ExxonMobil. In a blog posted to their website, the oil giant attempted to explain why the continued use of oil, gas, and coal to power our economies is the only viable way forward, while dismissing both the potential of renewable sources of energy and the costs imposed by a changing climate. The reality is that fossil fuels still provide the lion’s share of the global energy supply, but the assertion that it has to be this way couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the blog post, Exxon outlines their case for fossil fuels, stating “divestment represents a diversion from the real search for technological solutions to managing climate risks.” Exxon’s idea of a technological solution to managing a climate risk, of course, is the natural gas boom currently underway in the United States. In addition to creating plenty of jobs along the supply chain and accounting for a sizeable chunk of the nation’s GDP, natural gas is supposedly responsible for the return to 1990’s emissions levels that the US has experienced over the past few years. Even ignoring the obvious environmental risks to soil, air, and groundwater associated with natural gas production, fugitive methane emissions from drilling sites are often understated and likely have a greater […]

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As Solar Prices Fall, Banks Take Notice

Following a series of reports from major Wall Street institutions, Barclays announced this week that it would downgrade the entire U.S. electric utility sector bond market ratings against the U.S. corporate bond index due to the “challenge from ratepayers’ increasing opportunities to cut electricity consumption with solar and battery storage.” Translation: the cost of powering homes and businesses with solar energy is continuing its trend downward as more consumers opt to get their electricity from the sun instead of from traditional utility grids. Though Barclays warns against optimism over rapid growth in the solar industry, their downgrade represents a shift in paradigm regarding energy markets. Traditional electric utility bonds were long considered a solid, conservative investment, and they provided investors with steady returns while allowing people in most areas of the country to enjoy the use of consistent, reliable electricity. Electric utilities currently make up about 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value. But as the grid ages and the price of fossil fuels rises, utilities struggle to maintain their position as the most cost-effective means of powering the modern world. Generating electricity with the sun’s energy and storing it in hi-tech batteries is sounding like the best bet for more people each day, and the financial world is catching on quickly. Though nobody can forecast the future, there is a growing consensus that advances in solar power and storage technologies will likely be the main challenge to […]

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U.N. Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

The latest installment of the U.N’s fifth Climate Assessment Report explores what we must do in order to lessen the negative impacts of a changing climate.  As our understanding of climate change continues to develop, we hear more and more about a few particularly important numbers: to ensure that average global temperature increase does not exceed 2oC by the year 2100, we mustn’t allow the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to exceed 350 ppm (parts per million). Currently, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 400ppm, with an additional 2ppm emitted each year. Accounting for population and economic growth, CO2 concentrations are projected land between 750 and 1,300 ppm by the end of the century. To offset the emissions resulting from this growth, we need to substantially cut emissions by 2050 (by 40-70%), and to completely cease emissions by 2100. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released its third working group summary this weekend in Berlin, Germany, as a part of its fifth Climate Assessment Report. Previous working group summaries have tackled the physical scientific aspects of changing climate systems, as well as impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities for people across the globe. The latest installment examines the topic of mitigation: the “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.” There are currently great efforts underway to achieve both goals of greenhouse gas mitigation. Forests are one of our most valuable carbon sinks; trees […]

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July Green-Biz Interview: Brian Higgins of Green Home, LLC

“I started this company when I became convinced that green building was simply 21st Century building technology,” says Brian Higgins of Green Home, LLC. “When I look around and see what is happening to our planet, I am constantly reminded that we human beings, as an animal species, as intelligent beings, as a spiritual force, need to do better.” We asked Brian to tell us more about Green Home LLC, energy efficiency, reusable materials, and the evolution of the green economy.

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Help Bill O’Reilly Go Solar

Our friends at Vote Solar are holding talk-show host Bill O’Reilly to his word.  On a recent episode of his television program, Mr. O’Reilly indicated an interest in installing a solar energy system on his home, but suggested he can’t find access to solar where he lives.   Not true!   The solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing in America, and there’s definitely solar energy available to Mr. O’Reilly.  Here’s what he said: “I want to buy solar or wind for my house this winter, can you tell me where to do that? There’s nowhere, no one. No one will do that. I live on Long Island, it’s a big place, there’s nobody.” Help spread the word about O’Reilly’s interest in solar on Twitter (HT to Stephen Lacey at Climate Progress for his work on this): NY #solar companies can help Bill O’Reilly of the @oreillyfactor install a system. Will he live up to his word? http://bit.ly/tjdR1B

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Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings

This article, by Andrew Schein and Kara Turtinen, originally appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of the Green American.    Visit the Green America Web site to subscribe to the Green American. When Tim O’Neil approached fellow Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association member Stephanie Stewart in 2009 about starting a solar buying cooperative in their suburban Portland community, she loved the idea. “Literally within a couple of days, Stephanie had created a Web site and a logo,” says O’Neil. Then O’Neil and Stewart turned to Lizzie Rubado of the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon to help them put together workshops on installing solar panels. Originally, the new team expected to sign up 50 or so people, and they hoped that about 10-20 would go through with the installation. After all, 2008 saw only 38 solar panel installations across the entire city of Portland, Rubado says. To their surprise, about 300 people signed up for what would become the Solarize Portland solar buying co-op. One-hundred and twenty homeowners installed solar panels that year.

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